The Oklahoma aerospace industry flies on innovation.
But for the past decade, it has lacked inspiration, said Steve Hendrickson, director of state and local government relations for The Boeing Co.
"Our industry in the old days was really sexy - anyone that had any type of technical aptitude looked toward the national news or the state level for inspiration to get into the industry," he said. "Now it's up to us and the private sector to go out and find the skilled work force we need."
Hendrickson spoke straightforward to a room full of Oklahoma aerospace leaders and employees Wednesday during the Oklahoma Aerospace Summit and Expo in Tulsa.
In 10 years, Oklahoma's working-age population is going to decrease by about 200,000 people in the age group of 18 to 64, Hendrickson said, quoting figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The aerospace industry is up against thicker competition with less market to choose from, he said.
"The health care companies are gunning for the same work force as those in energy," Hendrickson said. "And here we are in aerospace just kind of hoping these folks will come along to us."
Hendrickson said the health care and energy industries have a highly organized and structured work force, whereas the aerospace industry as a whole fails to plan for the future. Most in the industry are concerned with current financial performances and don't look at the big picture.
"The truth of the matter is one of the best pieces of your time is to get very serious about a long-range plan," Hendrickson said. "This is not only about sales and profit, but also the quality of employers and workers you need. …